Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Merci to Grazie in 5 hours

With the handoff of a tiny espresso inside a cafe called Teapot my voice spills out most of "Merci" before auto-correcting with a rather muffled version of "Grazie". I shake it off -you're not in France anymore- get your "thank you"s sorted.

Yesterday afternoon and 80€ later I found myself in a window seat getting shot out of a Paris station on a high speed TGV train bound for Torino. A five hour journey blew past a few mountain towns that brought back some fond memories of riding past those same villages on my old bike a few years earlier.

Popping out of the station in Torino I was greeted with a giant hug by my best friend Nicola Stella. Him and I have shared massive laughs for the last nine years. Having worked together at an international sports camp for children in Switzerland for several summers (and a few winters) our friendship grew out of all the crazy amounts of fun we had during those years.

I have always found him living with a few of his friends in some dusty, cramped apartment. But times have changed as I toured his beautiful new apartment on the top floor of a building dating back to 1861. Yes. 1861. Stripped down to the baseboards his fiancée, an extremely talented architect, designed the entire space.
Stella, with the glasses, Cristina and Guido
Dinner was classic Italian: Nothing fancy but absolutely amazing. Stella and Cristina's friend Guido joined us for dinner. Guido, a good friend of Cri's and Stella's is also a friend of mine.  Having infiltrated much of Stella's network of friends many years ago, I find myself with more friends in Italy than anywhere else in the world.

And then lunch this afternoon. Darting back on his bike from the court house (Stella's a lawyer) I joined him at the kitchen counter for some salad and a few slices of salami. There is something so beautifully simple with how Italians often return home to eat lunch. Making and sharing a meal among friends.
Lunch is full of laughs and lots of catching up when our conversation takes a comical turn on rather serious subject. I ask if the cheese we are eating is Parmesan. Which then sparks Stella to tell me him and Cri have ordered a big piece of Parmesan cheese to "help out" those who were victims of the recent earthquake near Bologna. "You what?" I said perplexed. "We bought a big piece of Parmesan because that's the region where this type of cheese is from and the buildings and farms who produce the cheese have been so badly damaged that it was advertised as a way to help raise money and not let the cheese go to waste." I laughed, then he laughed. Only in Italy would buying insufficiently aged Parmesan be considered a humanitarian act.

One of many things I have come to appreciate is how traveling provides time/space to recognize the natural flow of life with increased clarity. Almost like a magical cadence, life is ever so briefly exposed not as a complete masterpiece but rather single short brush strokes, a massive series of unique moments created in partnership by the individual and the world that surrounds them. Moments when life feels like one's existence is moving in harmony with this infinitely complex world.

But that might just be the espresso talking.

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